thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Let the Water Hold Me Down” (Season 2, Episode 16)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

This week the PLLs (and Lucas) survive last week’s almost drowning; use fake IDs; venture into the big city; go on fake dates; and then Rosewood has a creepy storm (like the one currently afoot in Eugene). Read on for more on our favorite little liars.

Lucas has a gambling problem! Do we buy it? And was that reveal sufficient pay-off for this mini-plotline? And wasn’t it weird how nobody was worried that Lucas was dead?

Phoebe: Umm, no! That was so weird and does anyone else remember Caleb having tons of money that he left for Lucas to protect? I definitely don’t. That seemed so weird. Also, I felt like it was weird that nobody thought Lucas was dead, but then again I guess he was calling his parents which make ease some nerves I suppose.

Sarah: I was really disappointed in this revelation–it felt contrived and it lacked any kind of emotional payoff as well. I wish the writers had just gone with the obvious solution that Lucas was anguished about telling Hanna he was in love with her/asking Caleb to move out because he was in love with Hanna/etc. And Hanna’s lack of concern about leaving Lucas in the lake, before they knew that he was in touch with his parents, seemed very out of character. She just has a feeling he’s alive? That kind of feeling would not be enough for me to go on!

Chelsea: Booooo. I mean, I never had grand expectations for the resolution of the Lucas plot, but this was just plain bad.

Melissa: And didn’t Lucas excel at making money for Hanna via E-bay purse sales? Why did he have to drive around Pennsylvania hawking comic books? Couldn’t he use his E-bay powers for self-preservation as well as romantic wooing? I didn’t buy it. Who goes all Gollum-psycho-chuckie-doll-possessed-in-a-rowboat about a gambling problem? I mean, who under the age of 45?  As we can see from this response, I just have questions.

Do you sympathize with Mona’s Noel-broken heart? Have she and Spencer (two diametrically opposed characters) reached an understanding?

Phoebe: Also, no! I feel like Mona is playing the PLLs in order to take suspicion off of her and Noel. But maybe that is because I don’t trust Mona or Noel further than I could throw either of them (which, truth be told, is not very far though I am working on my arm muscles). I felt like that break-up came out of nowhere and thus I feel particularly suspicious …

Sarah: Aaaah I love Mona. I don’t care if she did murder Ali and then murder Ian and has been leaving little foreboding rowboats in overflowing faucets for years now, all of which is entirely possible. I don’t know! I find her character development fascinating and wildly sympathetic, which is also to the credit of Janel Parrish’s acting. She’s a former nerdy bullied girl trying very hard to fit into the it girl identity she’s created for herself, and it’s so interesting me when she shows the strain that’s putting on her (as when she admitted to Spencer how hard she has to work to get a guy like Noel to date her). There’s something Blair Waldorf-esque about Mona–the self-made popular girl who works so hard to stay on top.

And I just loved that scene between Mona and Spencer, because they are two people who seemingly have less than zero in common–but remember the flashback Mona in pigtails and glasses and sweaters, hugging her arms while she watches Ali and Aria run away from her? The Spencer of yesteryear–the more eager-for-approval, new-to-having-friends, bespectacled Spencer–has something in common with Mona there, even if their situations weren’t the same. (Spencer was in the inner circle and Mona wasn’t, but as the girl most resistant to Ali, Spencer was also the girl most consistently on the verge of being pushed out.) I really liked seeing Spencer being so kind to Mona and giving her support and sound advice, because that’s the side of Spencer that makes her truly great. And I believed Mona needed some compassion right then–regardless of whether the Noel break-up is for real or not.

Chelsea: Like Sarah, I was convinced that there was at least some genuine emotion beneath Mona’s tears in her confessional about the break-up to Spencer. But, like Phoebe, I don’t trust her at all. I can see the Blair Waldorf comparison, but I think there’s something more sinister about Mona that hasn’t yet been exposed. Also, Blair would never buy one cashmere blend sweater set. Spencer did seem to feel a connection to Mona during/after their conversation (tissue-sharing will do it every time), but I hope that Spencer’s suspicious nature wins out and Mona doesn’t manipulate Spencer in some way for A.

Melissa: For once, I am with Sarah – that is, I’m giving someone the benefit of the doubt rather than immediately racing to suspicion. For some reason, I believe Mona. While she has done mean things in the past, I don’t think she’s very good at being sneaky. And she usually does mean things out of social-self-serving means – like lying about Caleb’s letter to keep Hannah for herself. I totally buy the Blair Waldorf comparison: she is someone who thinks she’s so tough and can be quite a bully, but that’s really to cover up a huge history of insecurity. This vulnerability can also make her a possible tool for others to use. I think Noel is somehow involved and that he might be using Mona to get close to the PLLs via Hannah. Yes, that Noel Kahn is evil but Mona tugs on my sympathy heart strings. And I LOVED the scene with Spencer. I think both of them are lonely girls who throw their power around in bossy ways to cover up their insecurity. Thus, I think Mona’s weakness allowed Spencer to let her wall down too and the girls seemed to really communicate. And what a great female empowerment speech: why do we let guys make us feel bad even once we’ve become the versions of ourselves we were so hoping to be?

Why might Holden want to keep up the fake-dating subterfuge with Aria?

Phoebe: So I think this is a great question. I think perhaps he has a secret relationship that he doesn’t want his parents to know about. Also, I wondered if maybe it was with a boy and he hasn’t come-out to his parents? But he did seemingly ask Aria out, so maybe not? Maybe he is dating a girl they don’t approve of? Or maybe he hates science (his parents are scientists right?) and they would be offended by that? But he definitely has some sort of super secret agenda.

Sarah: I think it’s because Holden is actually secretly Lucas’s half-brother and somehow Aria is the cover for him infiltrating the Rosewood crew and reuniting with his long-lost sibling. (I don’t actually think this, but don’t they look alike?) I also thought Holden might be gay, but maybe that’s too obvious of a reason for him to want a fake relationship?

Chelsea: Good question. Also, finding out the answer to this question is a way more compelling reason for me to watch the show than finding out whatever horrible structure requiring scaffolding A is building. Anyway. Regardless of who Holden is interested in maintaining a secret relationship with, it seems that he asked Aria out more as way of getting his parents to stop pressuring him than anything else. He did kind of seem to like-like her in the school scene when he’s asking her out, but he could just like her and see her as a relatively painless way of getting some parent-free time.

Melissa: I bet he just has a gambling problem.

What do you think about the depiction of blindness in this episode/on this show, particularly after Spencer’s visit to the rehab center for the blind?

Sarah: In the past I’ve thought that Pretty Little Liars seemed to equate blindness with internal darkness in Jenna’s character– the show makes her blindness (both the accident that caused it and her blindness itself) a part of what makes her so unknowable and potentially dangerous, which is of course problematic. So I was really interested to see how the show would depict another blind character (the guy with the curly hair). In Spencer’s conversation with him she learns about how he experiences and navigates the world–finding the raw sugar packets by feeling the size of the grains, noticing that she’s nervous by feeling her pulse rate when they shake hands. But there’s still the dramatic and slightly threatening music in the background because 1) this is a show where literally anybody could be a stalker-killer (I’m looking at you, desk lady) and 2) they’re talking about Jenna, who continues to automatically equal creepy soundtrack music–except, notably, in flashbacks before the accident that makes her blind.

Chelsea: I have two concerns about this. 1) Why are there stone steps leading to the entrance of a school for the blind? I mean, I understand that the school equips its students for a world that isn’t designed to accommodate them, but it seems unkind to have a completely unforgiving tripping hazard to the entrance where students would encounter the school for the first time. 2) Why was the guy Spencer spoke with so awkward? Socially, physically, etc. Whhhhy?

Melissa: Interesting questions about depictions of ability…I thought it was interesting to see Jenna through someone else’s eyes. Well, unfortunate idiom, I suppose. But curly-haired-boy read Jenna’s intensity and drive as motivation and passion, not necessarily as hatred or vindictiveness. Mainly, in this scene I was distracted by the weirdly austere desk lady. What was UP with her? So angry!  So very angry!  You had coffee….sign the book! It was interesting to me that the woman with vision – the angry desk lady – was the one least able to see what Spencer was up to and that curly haired boy was able to tell she was suspicious. I mean, I get the feeling desk lady would be that angry and demanding if you were a blind student’s grandmother and asked if you could leave some cookies at the desk.

Does Maya really need a fake ID? She’s 33! (The actress playing her is, anyway)

Phoebe: Wow I had no idea! She looks so young! Also, the fake ID situation was really interesting and a little odd. I felt like it was a weird post-race moment or something? Was it? Maybe not.

Sarah: Right? Bianca Lawson looks great, but she was playing a teenager on Buffy in 1997. (Sidenote: I just learned that she was originally cast as Cordelia!) I was also thinking about that fake ID conversation between Aria and Emily–quick refresher for those who might need one: Emily asks for Aria’s fake ID for Maya, Aria says that she and Maya look nothing alike, Emily explains they’re going to a club in Jersey, Aria’s like “Oh, that will definitely work then.” Partly I thought it was an excuse to set up a Jersey joke, but it was interesting the way that race is both implicitly acknowledged and eluded in that conversation.

Chelsea: No. That was such a strange element of the episode. Really though, none of the PLLs need fake IDs. Maybe Hanna. Maybe. Phoebe, I like your potential “post-race” reading of it.

Melissa: I just couldn’t stop laughing about how chill Emily was: “Yeah, I can get you an ID pronto, no prob.” She must know Veronica Mars, is what I was thinking. Or there’s a secret fake locker in Rosewood too.

Speaking of Maya, who do you think she is texting? Is it the fling? Or A?

Chelsea: The intensity on her face every time she gets a call or text from anonymous “fling,” is too much to allow that to be the complete truth. It might just be her hook-up who’s contacting her, but if so, that hook-up is being weirdly aggressive and threatening. Also, it’s probably A.

Melissa: I bet that the hook-up was Noel Kahn. Or Jason. One of these boys that disappeared for a while from the show and then reappeared.

Predictions on A?

Phoebe: So, this week I felt like the show wanted us to believe that A is at least in part Melissa (and of course Jenna). Also, if Ally visited Jenna the day Ally was killed, but there is no record of it (although I feel like we’ve seen that scene in a flashback), where were they? Or does Ally have a super secret evil twin (I am so sticking with this theory) who visited Jenna? And that’s why there’s no visible record … Also, I think A is definitely in part Jenna.

Chelsea: SMITTY. No, really, I feel like it’s anyone’s game at this point.

Melissa: Melissa is so back in for me. Lakehouse? Apartment near the blind school? Evilness beyond anything? Melissa has to be somehow involved.

And Melissa’s final thought on episode:

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